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expert reaction to study investigating removing so-called senescent cells from middle-aged mice, their lifespan and age-related decline

Publishing in the journal Nature a group of scientists have examined the effects of a particular gene on ageing in mice and report that removal of cells in which it was present could delay tumour formation and age-related deterioration of organs.


Prof. Ilaria Bellantuono, Professor of Musculoskeletal Ageing, University of Sheffield, said:

“This study builds on the previous important work from the same authors and others providing proof of concept that accumulation of aged cells have an impact on the health of aged mice. This work is interesting because it confirms some of the findings from a previous study, which used mice with accelerated ageing, using mice which are ageing naturally. It shows improved health in some aspects of their ageing such as reduced incidence of cancer, cataracts, and improved memory, suggesting that removal of these aged cells can be beneficial.

“However, it is far from being the solution to healthy ageing as there are several aspects such as mobility which are not improved – and of course this research is in mice, not humans. Moreover, these effects in mice are achieved through genetic manipulation – the identification of drugs capable of achieving something similar will be very difficult due to the potential high toxicity that these drugs are likely to have on normal tissues.”


‘Naturally occurring p16Ink4a-positive cells shorten healthy lifespan’ by Darren J. Baker et al. published in Nature on Wednesday 3 February 2016. 


Declared interests

Prof. Ilaria Bellantuono: “I am a member of the MRC Arthritis Research UK centre for research into Musculokskeletal ageing and the Chair and grant holder of the COST Action MouseAge.”

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